Ian Thorpe ‘considered’ coming out in 1998 but was warned it would lose sponsorships
Ian Thorpe considered coming out publicly in 1998, but was warned it would lose him sponsorships, according to reports.
Thorpe, a five-time Olympic gold medallist, revealed yesterday in an interview with Michael Parkinson that despite previous denials, he is gay.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that two years before the 2000 Sydney Olympics, Thorpe had an anonymous phone call with Canadian swimmer Mark Tewksbury, set up through openly gay solicitor John Marsden, when he was considering going public.
Tewksbury came out as gay in 1998, six years after breaking the World 100 metre backstroke record. Thorpe would have been 16 at the time of the call.
Tewksbury told the newspaper of the call: “I always questioned his sexuality but his name was never revealed to me.”
He added that he chose to come out after rumours about his sexuality cost him “six-figure speaking contract”, and threatened his sponsorships.
He said: “I knew when I did it, there was a chance I could lose everything… that was the reality.”
Praising Thorpe, he added: “I think it’s wonderful that he feels like he’s in a place now where he can talk about it. He may not have been in a place where it was safe for him to do this before.”
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“It was always the question of who was going to be the really big star… Ian is an icon, Ian is the star.
“This is a big step for Ian, it takes a lifetime to catch up, but it’s a really great first step.”
Thorpe said yesterday: “What happened was I felt the lie had become so big that I didn’t want people to question my integrity.
“And, you know, a little bit of ego comes into this. I didn’t want people to question that… have I lied about everything?
“I’ve wanted to [come out] for some time. I didn’t feel I could. Part of me didn’t know if Australia wanted its champion to be gay.